The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, February 19, 2018

Saving Faith; Our Faith, Our Salvation?

Jesus said to the woman, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction'. As in at least one other place in our modern Bible, we have an instance here of 'who done it?'; did Jesus heal her, or did she, through faith in Him, heal herself? Well, obviously, the answer is 'YES'! This is plainly a 'both and' scenario: Jesus recognized that her faith had done the job, so to speak & then, just like His Father in the beginning, He pronounced it done ( one might say, 'He verified it' ). One could argue till they're 'blue in the face' ( been there done that ) that this famous passage in Paul's Letter to the Church at Ephesus ( Ephesians 2:8 & 9 ) 'For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast', clearly states that our faith itself comes from God, not from ourselves. In the greatest sense this is true, but, if I remember my grammar rules correctly, 'grace' being the subject ( not 'faith' ), 'that' would point to the subject, 'grace'. As well, the context seems to demand a first-century audience, the Jews & Gentiles who were being saved from the so-called 'Old Covenant' economy.

In this New Age ( Jesus called it 'the age to come'-Luke 18:30, Luke 20:34-36 ) we should note that, as Jesus said, we are like 'the angels'; in essence, that we have become aware of our Essence, our Oneness with Him ( 'God' ); therefore, we cannot die ( I realize that I'm traversing dangerous ground here, but bear with me! ). Orthodoxy tells us that it is only those who confess their sins ( I John 1:9 ) & turn to Him in repentance who receive the aforementioned 'grace', thus inheriting eternal life. This is not entirely wrong, but neither is it altogether correct! The context of the promises of Scripture demand a first-century fulfillment! From beginning to end, the promises were to Israel: those promises to Israel were fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. ( In Greek, this translates to 'the Christ' ) While many of the passages of Scripture hold universal truth, there are some that hold true for Israel alone & were fulfilled in Jesus. In the greatest sense, one might say that they are being fulfilled yet today, in & through us!

Jesus, as has been discussed recently in this blog, was the Messiah of Israel, the Son of Man who came to save His people from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 ) & thus was revealed as the very Son of God. ( I realize that I failed to mention 'only begotten' ) As such, Jesus did die a very painful death for those sins, a death which was pictured throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The sins of Israel required a blood sacrifice, something which many people today, Christian & non-Christian alike, cringe at. One thing that most fail to realize, though, is the culture that these Scriptures came from. Thanks to traditional Christianity itself, the Scriptures have been widely interpreted from a Western viewpoint; thankfully, this is under review, almost as widely. The culture from which the Scriptures come was not only much different than our Western culture; it was also ancient! There is a joke that goes something like this; 'Jesus won't come back for fear He'd be mistaken for a terrorist'. But I digress: the point is that, the Ancient Near Eastern culture that we read about in the Bible was one of Death. Its pagan, idolatrous ( just read the Hebrew Scriptures! ) beginnings should tell us much about why their 'sins' called for a blood sacrifice.

The reason Jesus was called the Lamb of God was because He was the fulfillment of all those innocent lambs whose blood was shed under that first ( covenant ). ( I'm sure there could be other reasons.......... ) Things don't work quite the same way, here in the West, although I'm sure that if one cared to research our own pagan, idolatrous roots, some very interesting, maybe similar, results might be revealed! The ancient beginnings of Western culture were very bloody as well, as I understand it. Even until recently ( 500 years or so ), Western culture has been a bloody mess, with some less-bloody, even glorious, intervals. Without a better grasp of Ancient Western history ( prior to the Vikings even ) I hesitate to venture much further in a revelation of Ancient Western culture, but, correct me if I'm wrong, about the only similarity between the two ( ANE & AW ) was that both were very bloody!

Just like in the Ancient Near East, religion factored rather heavily in the Ancient West; the gods were just as numerous, maybe even moreso! Like in the West, too, the gods of the Ancient Near East were based, however loosely, upon human manifestations. As well, much of what the Hebrews witnessed, which they correctly ascribed to the One True God, seen through the lenses of modern science, are now ascribed to the Forces of Nature, rather than being a supernatural event ( both are true ). These two factors, by the way ( blood & religion ), are related, though maybe not in quite the way in which we prefer to think!

Lest we stray too far from our topic, as previously stated, Jesus was known as the Lamb of God because He fulfilled all the types from that first ( covenant ). He became the truest blood sacrifice for the sins of His people from of old. It could be argued, as it has been from time immemorial, that He was our Messiah as well, but ( keep your shirt on ) He was simply Israel's Messiah, the Christ who took away the sins of that 'world'! There are many today, most if not all, really, who say that as the Christ, Jesus shed His precious blood for the whole world, everyone who ever lived or will ever live. These truly are not far wrong; they're very nearly right! Jesus was the Christ to Israel, in that generation ( not to belabor the point ), but as He made perfectly clear in the Scriptures ( if one is open to the concept ), we are ( to be ) the Christ in our generation. Now, it can be argued, as it has been before, quite vociferously, that Jesus was not just a human being ( according to most accounts ); He was also ( the Son of ) God. Well, whether one wants to attach the capital letter or not, so are we! This is not to say that we all act worth of the appellation, but as spiritual beings having a human experience, we are essentially on the same level as Jesus was ( GASP )!

So, is the phrase, 'Saving Faith' valid today, particularly in our  ( modern ) Western culture? Depending upon where that faith is placed, 'Most certainly!' Many simply have faith in themselves, without truly understanding their own nature, thus setting themselves up for a fall: while they may persevere for a time, they will often succumb to outside forces that convince them they must look outside themselves for salvation. Sometimes with a simple faith in a 'God' somewhere out there, it is possible to lead a glorious, even heavenly life, but even there, most are simply spinning their wheels in a never-ending rut, looking for a final salvation that will never come!

In conclusion then, just as Jesus said to the woman with an issue ( of blood-?? ), it is our faith that saves us, though it is ultimately the God Within ( or the Christ Within, if you prefer ) that 'saves' us, whether it be from a horrible wreck in our vehicle, a life of depravity, or simply a bad diet! Our Western concept of 'salvation', like it or not, however loosely, is based on the Hebrew ( Greek ) Scriptures. That Salvation was fulfilled by the Messiah, or Christ, of Israel. That Salvation was ultimately from the so-called Old Covenant economy, or as it is called at least one in Scripture, 'the ministry of death' ( II Corinthians 3:7 ). While it might be noted that the world seems sometimes, to be under the thrall of a different 'ministry of death', it is not to the Messiah of Israel that we must look for its salvation; it is to the Christ Within that we must look for the salvation, first of our own ( little ) 'world': the rest of the ( larger ) world will, in time, follow!

Charles Haddon Shank

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